Where the US Will Spend Its Weapons Cash

If you want further proof of where Pentagon weapon spending is likely to head, check out the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assesments latest publication, Outside-In, Operating from Range to Defeat Iran’s Anti-Access and Area-Denial Threats.

The document, a concept for how the Defense Deparment can counter Iran’s increasingly sophisticated efforts to feild weapons that could hold the U.S. and its allies at bay, echoes CSBA’s other concepts adopted by the DoD, such as the Air-Sea Battle and the “family” of long-range strike systems. All of these call for an increased investment in long-range strike and ISR gear.

As I just wrote over at military.com’s homepage:

CSBA’s ideas and recommendations have a way of becoming Pentagon policy. Several years ago, CSBA recommended adopting an air-sea battle concept that focused on building long-range, carrier-launched stealthy UAVs, a family of long-range strike systems, a cyber buildup and a focus on setting up a number of disbursed bare-bones bases in the Pacific where U.S forces could scatter to in the event of a war with a China armed with very sophisticated area denial weapons. Many of these recommendations have found their way into the Pentagon’s new strategy and budgets.

So, what technologies should you watch if you’re using this and other CSBA reports as tea leaves to understand dufture pentagon budgets. Listen to what CSBA’s Mark Gunzinger, the man who authored the think tank’s latest report, said today:

We think the world is becoming increasingly non-permissive for military operations [in all domains]; air, space, sea, undersea and on the ground. If that trend continues, we’re going to have to move toward capabilities can operate in all those domains against those kinds of threats.

He went on to say that the Pentagon has “a mix problem, we have too much in the way of non-stealthy, non-survivable air capability [F-15s, F-16s, F/A-18s, etc] and too many short-range [F-35 Joint Strike Fighter] versus long-range [B-2 stealth bomber] capabilities. The vast majority of our combat air forces across the services are non-stealthy and relatively short-range. If we had a basing problem in the future, such as the one we illustrated today, you’ve got to question what value those fighter forces would be until we have access to the bases. . .We’re not saying don’t buy fighters in the future, we are saying, ‘take a look at the mix and make sure it’s right.’ Today it really isn’t, we need more of the long-range surveillance and strike capabilities and perhaps less of the shorter-range capabilities.”

CSBA’s new concept for dealing with Iran also calls for investing in stealthy, long-range bombers and UAVS (some of which will be carrier-launched)  submarine-launched cruise missile capabilities, increased cyber warfare capabilities and amphibious warfare systems like the Marines’ new Amphibious Combat Vehicle.

Click through the jump to read the slides from Gunzinger’s presentation on CSBA’s Iran concept:

Defeating Iran’s Anti-Access Weapons

  • mike

    Interesting that Iran is presented as a long-term threat rather than a shorter-term problem. That seems like a bit of a straw man put up by the strategic-forces advocates because they know that talking about war with China does not fly. There’s going to be a point of no return for action against Iran (by either the US or Israel) well before any procurement mix gets adjusted. It makes me question how ‘honest’ the CSBA is, or if they are just shilling.

  • BWH

    Of course they’re just shilling. The real analysis is happening inside the Pentagon, by people who are actually practitioners of warfare operations. Outfits like CSBA are a bunch of outsiders looking in, almost assuredly funded by Northrop Grumman (or whoever else will pay them). Does anyone actually think the US military, in its current form, could not completely annihilate the armed forces of Iran in a conflict, now or in the future? Any “asymmetric” threats can be dealt with through the development of new/modified tactics. Attempting to argue that a massive array of entirely new systems are required to deal with the Iranian threat is absurd. But that wouldn’t make the contractors any money, and outsiders at CSBA don’t know anything about tactics or combat operations at all, so of course they’re not going to write about that.

    Combat leaders use systems to help them achieve objectives, not the other way around. How about letting those combat leaders dictate what systems are needed rather than a bunch of DC-based policy dorks with no experience in the warfare domains they are writing about.

    • ArkadyRenko

      The CSBA document is raising the valid argument that the current model of US military may not work in the future. You’ve said nothing that disproves that. For example, mass SCUD / cruise missile attacks will drain US PAC-3 batteries by the simple fact that a SCUD / cruise missile may cost less than a PAC-3. In those exchanges the US will be permanently at a disadvantage. Add in the fact that there will always be leakers and trading 10 SCUDs for one E-3 / KC-10 / F-22 is a deal anyone will make.

      As for the DC-based policy dorks, they’re the ones driving the US military, more than your “US = now and forever the best” argument. The USAF’s new bomber? All but designed by CSBA. “Air - Sea Battle”? The basic principles are laid out by CSBA, and no one else. These DC based policy dorks are creating the future DoD. The CSBA is the group arguing for such defense contractor supported ideas as hardened bases and less reliance on advanced C3ISR equipment. Yes they ask for bombers, but at the same time they question the massive spending on the JSF. Its, in the end, a wash in my opinion.

      But, lets address the Iran issue. I for one am surprised that they chose Iran, but the other option is just that Iran is a convenient case study for the wider trend. The US military has very little medium range strike capacity (between 700 - 1500 nm), especially stealthy medium range strike capacity. Once the Tomahawks and JASSMs are exhausted, so is the US military’s ability to operate in those distances. That problem is complicated by the basing difficulties, which are threatened by regional politics if nothing else. What happens if Bahrain goes all Shiite? There goes the US 5th fleet base and the associated air base. Where will the tankers operate out of?

      Finally, do you have any tactics to defeat swarms of speed boats + super cheap ASMs?

      • blight

        Our case study for speed boats is Operation Praying Mantis. Old, but it’s kind of all we have.

        Super-cheap ASM swarms have not been observed before in combat. If Iran somehow had a significant throw-weight of something like the BrahMos, it might prove interesting.

        More likely than not, the USN would attempt to build standoff between the USN and the coastline of Iran. What is not pondered is that the SM-6’s that are meant to engage cruise missiles will compete with TLAMs for VLS tube space: if we want to do ground strikes on Iran, it will come out of our long-range air defense capability.

        The SM-6 has a range of “130” nm. There might still be SM-2’s floating around, but not sure if those will deal with anti-ship missiles.

        Then there’s RAM and then last-ditch CIWS systems. However, the best defense against ASM’s is acquisition and destruction of OPFOR platforms.

        What is known about Iranian ASM platforms? Are they truck mounted? Are they static? Are they camouflaged? Are they moved about? Are there decoys? Where are the radars? Where are the storage bunkers? How are missiles loaded on the launchers? Are the reloading systems vulnerable? Can the bunkers be nailed by SDB’s or AGM-130’s or TLAMs or some other long range capability?

      • STemplar

        You realize of course there are something on order of about 6000 TLAMs and JASSMs in the inventory? If we exhaust them on Iran there won’t be anything left to shoot and if there is there won’t be a need for a stealthy option because there certainly wouldn’t be any IADS left.

        • blight

          Hm. Forgot if Raytheon is still cranking out TLAMs for the Navy.

    • Clive

      “Does anyone actually think the US military, in its current form, could not completely annihilate the armed forces of Iran in a conflict,”

      I’m pretty certain that they’ll score some devestating hits against the US. Remember all they have to do is sink one destroyer and in the eys of the world and Islam they’ve won, and thats no matter what casualties they suffer.

      One American ship lost and your own left wing will kick up such a fuss that you will be forced to stop fighting. And start the conflict and the world will hate you even more.
      Actually in many if not all respects the only loser can be America. Sad but true.

    • Kevin Smithwick

      Well written,I was thinking of writing something similar but I saw and agreed with your analysis

  • Cthel

    Nice photo of the underside of an X-47B; I’m surprised to see the arrestor hook exposed though. I would expect that to be a covered in flight, since the arrestor hook and recess must be a pretty good radar reflector

    • EJ257

      I wondered about that myself. Maybe they’ll cover it up in the final product. This is after all still in the eXperimental stage.

      • Nick

        Yep, and those antennas, the 22 has flat and flush shaped plates ingrained into the structure.

  • Will

    The CSBA assumption is that the primary Iranian objective will be US land & sea based air power, followed by the Saudi & Saudi allied oil infrastructure. What if the Iranians, by preference or by necessity, make Gulf tanker traffic their primary objective? Is high tech strike tech going to defeat low tech attacks against unarmed tankers?

  • JRL

    Maybe the CSBA would like to tell us who is going to be buying and operating all these extremely expensive “anti-access/denial” systems, eg the S-400/500 SAMs ? You know, the frighteningly impenetrable IADs whose “massive proliferation” has been right around the corner for how long now?

    To paraphrase Twain - The reports of the impending bloody demise of the modern so-called ‘legacy’ fighter-bomber have been greatly exaggerated. But hey, what else are the poor defense shills gonna do if they want to keep eating without going thru the trouble of making an honest living?

  • Michael

    Anyone interested in Iranian made RQ-170 scale models? =)
    Perhaps on your desktops?

  • Belesari

    The Airforce could just buy another 300 or so F-22’s which are actucally cheaper in the end than the F-35A,B, OR C. Invest in long range bombers B-2 like but without the insane price tag.

    Give the CAS job over to the army…….you dont want it anyways.

    Navy should invest in a multiuse frigate like the Absolon which because it is cheap and already basicly built can be built here in the US for a cheaper price than the LCS it would replace. And would be far cheaper to operate the either LCS or the FFG’s we currently use.

    Also get a longrange bomber like the A-6 and invest in more Superhornets because the new hornets look better than the F-35 when all is said and done.

    • TGR

      What data do you have to back up your theories? Just asking…

    • ziv

      I think that even 50 FB-22’s would have been a huge improvement. Stealthy, relatively long-ranged and plumb full of smart weapons that can be delivered from beyond detection range. And yes, they would have been expensive, but if they were ever needed, they would have been worth their weight in gold. And their deterrent value would have been huge.

    • Jeff

      While I agree more F22s would be good, you have to be fair. The F22s price now is that of a fully mature design. The F35s price is its low rate production price. That price will come down just as the F22s did. F35 is now at the stage that F22 was when it got canceled for being too pricey. People forget that a low rate production price will always be more expensive than the final price.

      • ziv

        Jeff, that is a really important point. The price of the F-35 is probably going to drop a good bit next year, actually, late this year, because the LRIP goes from 19 AC to 37 produced this year, and up to 47 in 2013 and then up to 118 in 2014. If the Airforce can get them through this ugly stage, that has lasted 3 years by my count, the price paid will start to drop. And as the price paid drops, we may see a few more orders, from Japan, from Korea, etc. Which in turn will drop the price a bit more, but it could all fall apart this year.
        If we drop our order number this year, the other countries buying it will have a short term increase in price which will encourage them to limit the number they purchase which will drive the short term numbers up more… I am not a huge fan of the F-35 but it is the best aircraft we will be able to get for the next 10-15 years. We should buy them steadily while improving the design as much as possible. Todays F-16 is an order of magnitude more effective than the F-16A produced in 1976, and the final F-35 produced in 2036 will be much more effective than the F-35’s we are producing today.

    • blight

      Standardizing on the -22 and dumping the -A to export customers would’ve been an option, but our export customers were counting on the USAF order to lower the per unit cost. Without it, the -A is out.

      The -B is markedly superior to the Harrier, and may be useful if we can convince the small-carrier/helicopter carrier nations to buy in. The -C’s will only sell to the QE2 and perhaps a few other nations with carriers of sufficient size.

    • blight


      The Absalon Class has a full load displacement of 6,300t. The hull is 137m long, has a 19.5m maximum beam and a 6.3m draught.
      The ship design, with 16 watertight sections or compartments and two airtight bulkheads, incorporates survivability and damage limitation features including dual redundancy, automated damage control zones, damage detectors and smoke zones. The ship’s on-board battle damage and control system continuously monitors the status of the ship and incorporates a closed circuit television observation system with more than 50 cameras, fire fighting installations, sensors and alarms, a load and stability computer.
      A roll-on roll-off ramp installed at the stern of the ship accesses the flex deck (flexible deck). The flex deck, providing 915m², and 250m of parking lanes, is about 90m long. The reinforced deck can embark vehicles up to 62t such as the Leopard II main battle tank.

  • stephen russell

    F35s, fictional F37 Talons (movie Stealth), new assult rilfes, attack copters,
    airlift transports, successor to B2, & B52, more SSGNs from FBMs,
    DD, FF for countering Chinese subs, Ground based Laser defense,
    Spec Ops,

  • JE McKellar

    Aside from Iran, the other contingency is countering any unpleasantness from North Korea, and maybe having to do that without our current bases in South Korea, Japan, and Okinawa.

    Though direct confrontation with China is unlikely, there will probably be some kind of issue in Central Asia or the interior of Africa, well beyond the reach of our allied bases and CVBG’s.

    Of course, the real issue is that the past 20 years have shown that air strikes aren’t enough to deter “rogue” states, and our land expeditionary forces are best at quick offenses, not drawn-out occupations. The new drone paradigm is basically an “aerial occupation”, a tool used to apply constant pressure on a recalcitrant population, but without the cost in blood and treasure of a conventional land occupation. The drones aren’t working out in Pakistan, though, so now all we can do is throw lots of money around and hope something pans out.

    This is fourth-generation warfare, where states just don’t matter anymore. Bombers are good for one state to threaten another state’s powerbase, but not much else. Drones rack up lots of stats that make the state’s scorekeepers happy, but don’t do much to change the situation on the ground. Soldiers and Marines can do a lot more, but only if they’re trained capably led, by leaders who actually understand the nature of the war they’re fighting. It’s just sad, as a nation we tell everyone to go get a STEM degree, and then whenever we come across a cultural, historical, political, or economic problem, and that’s all wars are, we just throw a bunch of technology at it. Sigh.

  • Jeff

    “Where the US Will Spend Its Weapons Cash?”

    Never mind that, where will we get the cash to spend with?

    • blight

      Tax cuts and de-regulation, didn’t you know?

  • Lance

    This report is BS. The F-15 and F-18 is more than a match for Iran’s crappy air defense and air force can put up. This is more crap for the DoD spenders who want to spend billions for more F-22s and a new bomber and new this and that. thing is the US has NO MONEY. Our adversaries don’t have any edge on a one on one basis. Enough crap like this.

  • Rabbit

    I like the phrase “Soviet adventurism” in the 4th slide. It’s almost as if they believed Russia was regressing to its Soviet sta-oh, wait, they might be right. Cheap shots aside, though, I found the arguments raised by the report quite convincing, in that they are consistent with how enemies have sought to defeat us in the past, particularly the last argument about political will. Our Cold War-era military dominance has had a hand in making us complacent in terms of the realities of a prolonged campaign (oh, we’re so good we should be able to wrap this up before Christmas) and in terms of guns-vs-butter spending (we like intervening to save innocent people, but all war is still bad and we’re so far above countries like Iran that we can afford to spend all our money on ending poverty).


  • zardinuk

    Scale up the F-47B, turn the scaled-up version into an aerial refueling tanker and a bomber.

    • fromage

      Ziv, this is what I was talking about.

  • AAK

    Didn’t get around to reading the whole thing. But if you’re looking for range, survivability, and versatility (if variants are developed..) then the f-22 should get a look in.

    And how about getting boring stuff like a scout/utility helicopter program right.

    • Clive

      Forget the boring stuff, how about getting the exciting stuff right? Such as the broken F-22 and F-35 fighters.

  • Black Owl

    We don’t need any of this new tech. All we need are weapons that are good enough to get the job done, which we already have. We need to start mass producing the weapons in our current arsenal, then focus on upgrading those. Why is the DoD so retarded and wasteful with it’s spending!

  • @E_L_P

    Not especially impressive report. We have a lot of JASSMs to launch from long-range bombers flying out of Diego. That combined with Tomahawk is something that will make a lot of their fixed targets, go away.

    And yes hunting mobile SSMs and SRBMs will be difficult however once their minimal SAM force and air force are down, you can put in predator/reaper orbits.

    None of this is easy and isn’t desirable either. I am sure that most of those stating we have to bomb Iran have a few draft deferments=chicken-hawks.

  • Clive

    No rubbish and ill informed posts about the F-35 today ELP? i’m suprised.

  • Sanem

    the US has been fighting Iran for the last 50 years, over its huge oil reserves and regional influence

    they fought this war in Palestinia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the UN over nuclear weapons

    but now Iran seems on the verge of winning:
    - it has maintained internal control despite the Arab Spring
    - is close to having nuclear weapons
    - has pushed the US out of Iraq and soon Afghanistan
    - while the US has spent itself into bankruptcy (which is how the USSR lost the Cold War btw)

    this current situation seems like the potential death blow for the US (and Europe, although i’m not convinced Iran will come out any better)
    - nuclear weapons will make Iran untouchable, while greatly increasing its offensive capabilities
    - blocking Iranian oil exports and the reaction to that move will boost oil prices to oil crisis levels, breaking the back of fragile recovering Western economies

    we’re discussing how the US can win the battle, but I fear it already lost the war. and China will be the final victor

  • Kole

    I wonder why Lockheed was picked to make a LONG RANGE stealth STRIKE fighter (F-35) only to have someone say that it is not capable, especially when we just bought like 30 more. Interesting. Also, spend money on more drones that might “crash” into a country with secret information. Sound familiar?

  • STemplar

    Given that a “new stealth bomber” was specifically mentioned in the just released defense priority document, I think it’s safe to assume that is where we are going to be putting some of our eggs in the basket.

  • Raraavis

    There is a mid-sized long range stealth bomber that has already been developed in the black budget. That is why there is next to no money scheduled for development of the “next-generation bomber” only production money. One can only imagine how much they are going to cost per unit. Perhaps if the development cost stay classified they can make the production cost look somewhat reasonable. We will find out soon.

  • papa54

    naw lets set back let the iranians build all their rockets missles and all nuclear weapons needed to wipe out all of the Infidels in the world ,, whooa wait a min we are the infidels.. someone needs to let congress know, not the president, he’s way to much of a wussy in my eyes. (in my opinion) oh well set back let all the enemies of Americans gain military strength over the US.. then lets hear all the dumb arsed liberals make their speeches ..

  • Rob

    The video only concepts US versus Iran & lacking a few things. I knew very well we have a sea base in Qatar and in all out warfare , Israel and a few countries would assist.

    Iran’s regime is not much liked in the Middle East either.

    That being said, If Iran try cut off the gulf , it would be most affective to drop subatomic bombs into the strait before sending any amphibious assaults. It would make the statement without civilian casualties

    Concept also seems to lack some NATO access points we could use for staging as well.

  • Rob

    As for China, I went out of my way to send some messages to some of their citizens…. understand if they start war on us, they attack thier own kind. We have Chinese migrants in every city and some are even in our military & media. We are best to unite in this dark era of our economy & global wellness.

    It be more efficient to unite all our tech system and focus together on inner crime & corruption.

    Have yet to find one that disagrees with me after making all my points to them. I
    ‘d love to list some here but I don’t want spam your great site.

  • Jacob

    “we have too much in the way of non-stealthy, non-survivable air capability”

    How is it that the F-16 and F/A-18 are suddenly declared obsolete when our most likely adversaries (Iran, North Korea) still have mostly the same equipment that they did back in 1991? If our air force was five steps ahead of these rogue states’ third rate militaries, then it still is now. Iran’ isn’t getting the S-300, and even if it did we now have the most advanced stealth fighters in the world to wage a SEAD campaign with impunity.

  • andrew martin

    How about using nuclear weapons to remove their threat remember us is the strongest country in the world
    you can produce lots of new weapons which any country can’t even get along even russia nor china can’t win if they declare a cold war try making a new concept of fully armored trucks or apc’s you can defeat iraq

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